|Tuesday, June 11, 2013|
|A New Chamber Service to Help You Find Talent|
The Chamber has launched a great new service to help you find talent for your company. Some of our employers have expressed an interest in hiring interns to help them on a temporary basis or to identify potential future employees. To help meet that need the Chamber is offering a matching service that allows both students seeking internships and companies seeking interns to find each other. Don’t know how to use interns? No problem. Resources are available to explain how to run effective internship programs. You can find the link on the Chamber’s front page at www.FortCollinsChamber.com or you can go here .
|Tuesday, June 4, 2013|
|Coping with Street Construction|
Good news, bad news. The good news is that Fort Collins has a lot of money to put towards street maintenance and construction projects. The bad news is that it can be hard to get around town and your business can be harmed if access is cut off.
Here are a few things you can do.
|Tuesday, May 28, 2013|
|A Summer Reading List (Or, Dude, You Need to Lighten Up)|
Summer! Finally! Friends, travel, backyard cookouts, hikes, warm weather and…summer reading.
As a voracious reader, I’m often asked what I’m reading. The short answer is ‘lots of stuff.’ I have wide-ranging interests, but my current list runs in the direction of economics, personal and professional development and history. For many people a list like that would be a summer bummer, but I’m pretty jazzed. So, since you asked, here are a dozen books I’m reading.
|Tuesday, May 21, 2013|
|In Appreciation of Business|
This morning I attended the City of Fort Collins’ Inaugural Business Appreciation Breakfast at the Marriott. There were about 200 people in the room. Businesses that had been operating for 75 years or more in Fort Collins were recognized. The underlying theme of the event was city government saying ‘thank you’ to business.
How refreshing! It was wonderful to see city government officially acknowledging the contribution businesses make to the success of the community. Mayor Karen Weitkunat read a City proclamation declaring today “Business Appreciation Day,” and City Manager Darin Atteberry said “We want you to stay here and expand here.”
In most places this would be…what? Routine? In recent decades in City Hall, however, the importance of business to a vibrant and livable community has been downplayed. This is largely due to the worldview of some of the past council members.
Anyway, it was a great occasion and signaled a healthier relationship between city government and its business community.
The event also gave the City a chance to report on all the great work it has been doing relative to economic development. You can find their 2-page overview report here.
Well done City of Fort Collins!
|Monday, May 13, 2013|
|Random Thoughts on Recent Happenings|
Here are a few observations on the passing Fort Collins scene.
Even the horror of an 8-hour city council meeting can produce good results. Incredible. On its surface, the idea of sitting in a meeting for 8 hours is absurd. Yet, that is exactly what the Fort Collins City Council did last Tuesday night (and into Wednesday morning). The big topic of the night was the proposal to redevelop Foothills Mall. The potential for inaction was high. The Council appeared to be divided 3 to 3 because Mayor Karen Weitkunat recused herself from deliberations since she owns property near the mall.
Credit Darin Atteberry and his staff and particularly Council Member Gino Campana and Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak for not letting the patient die on the operating table. Atteberry’s team had done their homework and had brought forward a solid proposal. But as the objections mounted, Campana and Horak took on each in turn and worked through every one of them to resolve them all. The final result was a 6-0 vote in support.
There was a story in the Wall Street Journal the next morning about the project. Written before the issue had been resolved, reporter Kris Hudson wrote, “Two investors are taking a gamble on a rare feat in the modern retail-property market: an ambitious redevelopment of a struggling mall in a small city. Developer Alberta Development Partners LLC and private-equity firm Walton Street Capital LLC were scheduled to go before the City Council of Fort Collins, Colo., late Tuesday seeking approval for $53 million in tax abatements and other subsidies for the project…Such a large project is rare in anything other than a large or midsize market…”
A strong developer willing to make a big investment to build a great project to replace a failing property in a medium sized market and some people tried to spike the deal, but in the end, it moves forward.
# # #
Last Thursday evening the 2012-13 Class of Leadership Fort Collins gathered at the Rio for fun and to officially graduate. Their keynote speaker was Tom Gendron, Chairman of the Board of Woodward. It was my pleasure to introduce Tom to share some insights about leadership. After sharing his background and a little bit about Woodward I said “As you know, the Woodward board announced that it will expand its corporate headquarters in Fort Collins on a site just east of downtown.” At that the room exploded in spontaneous applause. It was a nice display of support, one that reflects the feelings of the entire community.
# # #
Mercifully, the state legislature adjourned its 2013 session last Wednesday. We’ll report more fully on the results in the near future but suffice it to say that with controversial issues like marijuana, school reform, civil unions, elections and gun control dominating the calendar, combined with many new (read “idealistic and inexperienced”) legislators meant that tempers were high and civility low. The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance held its wrap-up luncheon on Friday, and here’s the state chamber’s take on things.
# # #
The Chamber’s 2nd Annual Health Care in Your Future event on May 1, in the middle of a blizzard. Even so, 397 people registered and most showed up. The blizzard somehow seemed apropos while talking about health care reform! Over 3 years after the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) was passed, the storm of controversy and confusion continues. The speakers that day did a great job of helping attendees understand the changes taking place and what is driving them. Keynote speaker David Rubenstein, Major General, US Army, Retired, who held the positions of Commanding General of the Army Medical Department Center & School and, concurrently, Chief of the Army Medical Service Corps repeatedly made the point that it is now the law of the land. In true military fashion, he made stressed that you have to deal with the reality on the ground, like it or not. You can find the event website here. A couple of book recommendations for you are “Beating Obamacare: Your Handbook for Surviving the New Health Care Law” by Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D. and “Obamacare Survival Guide: The Affordable Care Act and What it Means for You and Your Healthcare” by Nick Tate. Consider the ‘Obamacare’ a marketing device not a pejorative. Both books give a pretty good overview of the law and offer tips on what to do.
|Monday, May 6, 2013|
|Observations on the New City Council|
The 7-person City Council has 3 new members. That much change in the group that runs city government is always a matter of interest, if not concern. One of the first indications of where city government is headed and how the Council will work together comes at the City Council Retreat, which usually takes place about a month after the elections.
The Council met in a retreat this past weekend and representatives of the Chamber attended as observers. Other than Coloradoan reporter Kevin Duggan and senior members of the city staff, representatives of the Chamber were the only other people in attendance. The Council met Friday evening and most of Saturday for a total of 12 hours.
The topics could be lumped into two broad categories: how the city government and City Council function and strategic priorities of the city government and the council members. Specifically, sessions included:
– The Fort Collins Brand
– Council Dynamics, Roles and Expectations
– Procedural Review. Included here were zoning appeals and Urban Renewal Authority items, Work Session procedures, the Council Planning Calendar, Council Procedural Rules and Robert’s Rules and how Ordinances and Resolutions are initiated.
– The Fort Collins Strategic Plan. Included here were discussions of Economic Health, Transportation, Safe Community, Community and Neighborhood Livability, Culture and Recreation, Environmental Health and High Performing Government
It’s too early to tell how the new group will work together and how they will tackle issues. But here are a few observations:
– There was a nice spirit of goodwill. Gone were the over-politicization, posturing and grandstanding of recent City Councils. A general sense of comity prevailed.
– The focus was on doing what’s good for the community. Absent was flagrant agenda pushing.
– Differences of philosophy are still evident. Some clearly were on the side of job creation and a strong economy whereas a couple of other council members were advocates of a ‘stable economy’ and a ‘self-sustaining community.’ These are code phrases for stopping population growth, but at least the flagrant anti-business rhetoric was gone.
– City staff seemed more relaxed. While curious about the new Council, you sensed that they weren’t bracing for the next harangue from a council member.
– There was a lot of conversation about shared vision to continue to create a great community. One council member said “We can see farther because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.” He was making the point that the community has a long tradition of city councils doing the right thing and that the current council and community benefits from that and needs to pay it forward.
– City Manager Darin Atteberry reminded them that the Council plays a role in adding to or depleting the City’s brand by their actions and words every Tuesday night.
– Senior city staffers got a chance to discuss how Council behavior impacts them. One of them said “When we are attacked we muster a lot of energy to respond and defend. We’re back on our heels” instead of charging forward.
– To general acclaim by all of the Council members, one of the new ones said “I want to believe that we don’t have factions but we can work together and respect each other…I think we can be a great City Council.”
That final sentiment will be sorely tested this week as the City Council considers the incentive package to redevelop the Foothills Mall. Here’s hoping they mean it.
|Tuesday, April 23, 2013|
|Mall Redevelopment Proposal is Big|
City Manager Darin Atteberry has put a big, bold proposal on the table to support the redevelopment of the Foothills Mall. The price tag: $53 million.
In serious decline for nearly a decade, the Foothills Mall was purchased last year by Denver-based developer Alberta Development. Since then preliminary site planning has been underway along with tenant negotiations and recruitment. A serious obstacle to the envisioned plan was Sears, which owns its building and land at the mall. That matter has now been resolved with Sears agreeing to sell its existing site and having a self-standing building constructed near the perimeter of the developed mall site. While supportive of the mall redevelopment, the Chamber had opposed the use of eminent domain (government forcing the sale of private property) to secure the Sears site. We’re pleased to see the private parties resolve their issues without coercive government action.
A story in today’s Fort Collins Coloradoan by Pat Ferrier and Kevin Duggan provides an overview of the City’s proposal. The developer will invest $312 million - $230 million for the mall and $82 million for nearby residential.
The City’s financing package uses a combination of tools including a metro district, public improvement fee and tax increment financing. Using these mechanisms, the City’s ‘incentives’ are largely paid for from revenue made possible by the redevelopment project itself. In addition to getting a revitalized retail district in the center of town, the City is also asking the developer to build a youth activity center for $4.8 million and a pedestrian underpass under College Avenue to the Mason Corridor.
The City estimates that the revitalized mall will generate $117 million in new sales tax revenue over the next 25 years.
There are a lot of elements to this proposal and number of issues to consider. What happens to the Midtown Corridor (Prospect to south of Harmony) if the mall does not redevelop? Is this a proper use of the public-sanctioned financing tools like tax increment financing? What is the impact of these financing tools on other taxing districts? Is this fair to other retail areas in town that won’t benefit from these kinds of tools? Etc, etc.
A few quick thoughts:
• Some will argue that this is going to happen anyway so the City shouldn’t have to give up anything in terms of incentives. Maybe, but I don’t think so. The costs and obstacles for the developer are too high without significant financial relief. For decades the city government has demanded ‘high standards’ of developers in terms of high fees and very demanding design and construction standards. Now, for some projects to move forward, the City finds itself in a position of having to use various financing tools and / or waiving taxes and fees to mitigate some of its self-constructed obstacles.
• The Chamber has been supportive of ‘incentives’ for primary employers to attract or retain their payrolls in the community because of the huge economic benefit. Our approach on retail recruitment as been more hands off. In essence, our view has been that if there is disposable income in the community, retail will follow.
• The ‘however’ in this instance is that Fort Collins is the retail trade center of northeastern Colorado, southern Wyoming and the panhandle of Nebraska. Nearly 20 percent of retail sales in Fort Collins are made to people who do not live here. While not as important as the payrolls of primary employers, retail is still a significant source of outside income for the community. Furthermore, retail is an important amenity and generates the revenue necessary for important local government services. A declining or shuttered mall is an economic liability; a revitalized mall is an economic asset.
• The concern that a publicly-backed retail project is unfair to other retail areas is worthy of consideration. Is the city government picking winners and losers? Another angle on this is that a revitalized mall keeps shoppers in town and attracts nonresidents. People coming to the mall also shop in other parts of the city while they are here. But the key is they first have to be here. An attractive regional mall will keep and bring shoppers to Fort Collins.
The Chamber does not have a policy on this proposal yet. The Chamber’s Local Legislative Affairs Committee will take the issue up later this week. If you have thoughts on the City’s mall redevelopment proposal, call me at 970 482-3751 x 102 or send an email to email@example.com.
The City Council will be hear the proposal at its meeting tonight at 6:00. You can attend in person at City Hall, 300 LaPorte Ave. or watch it on Channel 14.
|Tuesday, April 16, 2013|
|Chamber of Compassion|
Promoting job creation, free enterprise, business connections and community prosperity are what the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is known for. But did you know we help build our community in other ways? Here are some of the recent or current activities of Chamber volunteers and staff:
Be assured that your chamber is focused on our primary job of fostering a strong local economy and business climate. In the process of doing that, however, the Chamber is a place where people who care about their community congregate and find diverse and important ways to build the community by helping others.
- United Way donations. The Chamber staff understands how important nonprofits are to the community. One hundred percent of the staff voluntarily donates to United Way.
- Helping the homeless. The 2012-13 Leadership Fort Collins class has taken on 6 different projects. Two of them are directed at helping the homeless including a “Fight the Freeze Homeless Gear Drive” (Team ‘Maniac Monkeys’) and “Homelessness Connect Volunteer” (Team ‘Eye of the Tiger’). The latter group is raising money for the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center’s crisis relief fund to help people who need short-term financial assistance. Find out more here. (Note of explanation: The 2012-13 Leadership Fort Collins class divided up into six teams and selected creative names to distinguish themselves from each other.)
- Self-sufficiency. Another Leadership Fort Collins class project this year was “Bike Bank with Matthews House” (Team ‘Serendipity Dogs’) to provide bikes for clients of Matthews House. Also, last year the Chamber’s Red Carpet Committee helped build a home for Habitat for Humanity.
- Wildland restoration. A Leadership Fort Collins team (Team ‘High Horses’) raised money for wildland restoration in support of bringing back some of the areas burned by the 2012 wildfires. They have a Water Restoration Work Day scheduled for April 20.
- Helping cancer victims. The Leadership Fort Collins team called ‘Community Crusaders’ has an event May 2 to raise money for RamStrength, which supports local cancer survivors by providing financial assistance for basic needs, scholarships, programs and services.
- Food for people with disabilities. Another Leadership Fort Collins team (Team ‘All for One’) is raising money to grow fresh vegetables for disabled residents living in poverty. You can find out how to help by going here.
- Food Bank. The Chamber’s Red Carpet Committee and Envision Young Professionals have volunteered at the Food Bank.
- Education. The Chamber Board has teamed up with the Rotary Clubs of Fort Collins and the Innosphere to raise money for 10 area elementary schools to support STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). Fund raising is still underway. To sponsor a school, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Tuesday, April 9, 2013|
|The Community Money Machine|
Primary employers are a big net benefit to the community. That should be self-evident, but apparently that is not the case based on some of the comments made recently during the City Council deliberations about the so-called ‘incentive package’ to retain Woodward in Fort Collins
To begin, primary employers are companies that produce a product or service in excess of what can be consumed locally. Half or more of that product / service is sold outside the area with the revenue flowing back into and circulating around the community. In short, primary employers are the key to community prosperity.
In the case of Woodward, 85 percent of the $23.5 million ‘incentive package’ is actually paid for by the Woodward expansion itself. Literally, for pennies on the dollar, city government is able to help retain the community’s most prominent private sector employer. And even those pennies spent upfront comeback many times over as the company prospers and grows in the future.
To help people grasp all this, the Chamber has launched Fort Collins Works. To see a short video and read a 1 ½ page brief on the importance of primary (also called ‘base’) employers, go here.
|Tuesday, April 2, 2013|
|Elections Today, Woodward Stays|
I have two topics for you this week.
First, today is Election Day. Hopefully, if you are a resident and registered voter in Fort Collins, you have already sent your mail-in ballot. If not, hand-carry them to one of the three ballot drop-off locations by this evening. Ballots must be in the hands of the City Clerk by 7:00 PM. The locations are:
– Fort Collins City Hall, 300 LaPorte Avenue (open until 7:00 PM)
– Fort Collins Police Services building, 2221 S. Timberline Road (open until 7:00 PM)
– Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak (open until 5:00 PM)
The Chamber has endorsed candidates that it thinks are ethical and will have the best interests of the entire community at heart while supporting policies that foster the creation of good-paying jobs. The Chamber has endorsed:
– Mayor: Karen Weitkunat
– District 1: Butch Stockover
– District 3: Gino Campana
– District 5: Ross Cunniff
# # #
The other topic is Woodward. As you know from the news media and communications from the Chamber, the company was in the process of making a decision about where to site its new $220 million corporate headquarters. Though company leaders looked at numerous locations, Woodward’s first choice was the Link-N-Greens property at the northwest corner of Mulberry and Lemay. Last Tuesday night the City Council voted 6 to 1 to approve a package of tax rebates and fee waivers. Members of the City Council supporting the ordinance were Karen Weitkunat, Gerry Horak, Aislinn Kottwitz, Ben Manvel, Lisa Poppaw and Wade Troxell.
There was strong support from the business community.
City Manager Darin Atteberry, several members of the Council and citizens discussed how epic this decision was for the community. It will have strong positive impacts for decades.
There were a few detractors, of course. One speaker that night said that companies need to ‘pay their fair share’ and the community should not give out ‘corporate welfare.’ I don’t want to dignify that with too much attention other than to say that it reflects a tired and misguided philosophy common with a vocal minority of citizens.
My response is that Woodward has been ‘paying their fair share’ for 57 years. The company’s economic contribution to the community has far, far, far outweighed the ‘cost’ of having them here. And as far as the ‘corporate welfare’ slur, the headline in the paper the next day should have been “Woodward Makes $220 Million Investment in Fort Collins; Might Get $23 Million Back.” The animus of some people toward business is a thing of wonder! Fortunately, a huge majority of Fort Collins residents don’t share this view. (See polling data here on FortCollinsWorks.com)
In the end, after a year-and-a-half, Woodward and the City were able to come to mutually acceptable and beneficial terms. The community will benefit for decades in the future.
|Tuesday, March 26, 2013|
|Decision Time for Woodward|
Fort Collins’s top private sector employer, Woodward, is on the City Council agenda this week. After months of negotiations between Woodward and city government, a proposal is on the table said to be worth $23 million. It will be used to secure the company’s proposed corporate headquarters on the Link-N-Greens property at the northwest corner of Mulberry and Lemay.
This is good news for the community, assuming the City Council adopts the proposal and the company decides to actually move ahead. Council action is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday evening March 26) with Second Reading set for April 2.
Unfortunately, the so-called ‘business assistance plan’ (Shouldn’t it actually be called a ‘community economic investment plan?’) has been characterized in the press as an incentive. I want to take a moment to correct that.
|Tuesday, March 19, 2013|
|The 'Why' Behind the Chamber's City Council Endorsements|
Ballots for the City Council elections have been sent and are due back by April 2. This is the time when people in the business community turn to us for our recommendations about who to support. We announced our endorsements two weeks ago. They are:
- Mayor - Karen Weitkunat
- District 1 (northeast part of town) – Butch Stockover
- District 3 (southeast) – Gino Campana
- District 5 (west central) – Ross Cunniff
Typically we don’t go into a great deal of background information, but I want to share a few insights with you that led Chamber leaders to these endorsements.
Mayor: Karen Weitkunat
- Mayor Weitkunat earned the Chamber’s endorsement due to her long record of public service. She has the knowledge and experience to effectively lead the work of the Council and represent the community.
- Eric Sutherland is articulate but lacks Mayor Weitkunat’s experience and is a single-issue candidate i.e., disgruntled with the Rocky Mountain Innosphere financing.
District 1: Butch Stockover
- Butch Stockover earned the Chamber’s endorsement due to his 16 years of city government-related experience on the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning & Zoning Board. His experience as a one-time small business owner in Fort Collins is a plus. He is quiet and thinks before he speaks. Of the four candidates in this race, he has the most balanced perspective.
- M.L. Johnson has a long record of public service on the school board. That might translate well and generally is a plus. We found him uninformed on city government issues, however, and he is not incisive when discussing community issues.
- Bob Overbeck is behind the two above-mentioned candidates in relevant public experience. He did not seem very interested in business or economic issues, and he declined an economic briefing by the Chamber. It’s not clear that he would be accessible to business or care about the business perspective, if elected.
- Bryan Payne is a newcomer to politics. We found him to be a nice, sincere young man who wants to contribute to the community. He has no civic experience and was generally uninformed about community issues.
District 3: Gino Campana
- Gino Campana earned the Chamber’s endorsement due to his service to the community on the Planning & Zoning Board. We found him to be generally well-informed on most city-related issues. Additionally, his family has been in the community for a long time, which brings an appreciation for and understanding of Fort Collins.
- Lynda Blake is a newcomer to Fort Collins and was generally uninformed about community issues. We were not clear on why she is running or what she believes. On the plus side, she was eager to get an economic briefing and has been accessible. We sense that if elected she would at least be open to hearing various perspectives.
District 5: Ross Cunniff
- Ross Cunniff earned the Chamber’s endorsement because of his service to the community on the school board. We are not convinced, yet, that Mr. Cunniff cares about business in general (‘local’ business, yes, but not business in general) or the economy. If elected, only time will tell if he is willing to seek all perspectives. Even in the face of those concerns, his public experience won the day, as did our expectation that he could grow in office, if elected.
- Patrick Edwards would bring a needed perspective to the Council, a young perspective. That view will be lost as Aislinn Kottwitz leaves the Council. We found Patrick to be engaging and bright. His inexperience was his biggest negative.
Several resources are available that might be useful to you. The candidates all filled out questionnaires, which are posted at FortCollinsWorks.com under the Candidate Positions icon. On the same site, you’ll also find the results of a recent public opinion poll under the Voter Research icon. Finally, you can find video of the City Council Candidates Forum at http://vzaar.com/videos/1194940 and the Mayoral Candidates Forum can be found at http://vzaar.com/videos/1194945.
This is an important election for the community. Please take time to vote!
|Tuesday, March 12, 2013|
|Chamber Launches Jobs Initiative: Fort Collins Works|
Fort Collins Works is a multi-faceted, multi-pronged communications program for communicating the business community’s economic vision of the community to key audiences including city government officials, candidates for public office and the general public.
The Chamber already has a strong issues advocacy program and has a political program that endorses candidates for public office. Missing was a way of telling the larger economic story to bring attention to opportunities and threats and to offer specific recommendations for economic action. Thus was born Fort Collins Works.
|Wednesday, March 6, 2013|
|Fort Collins is a Top College Destination|
Fort Collins is ranked 8th in the category of small metro areas on the American Institute of Economic Research College Destination Index. See the chart below and read the full story here.
|Tuesday, March 5, 2013|
|Poll of Fort Collins Residents: More Jobs|
A recent telephone poll conducted by Behavior Research Center of Fort Collins registered voters revealed support for job creation, retaining Woodward and increasing water storage.
The poll was conducted February 16-20. In-depth interviews were completed with 301 residents. The poll has a 95 percent confidence level, +/-5.8%. Five questions were asked.
On an open-ended question about the most serious problem facing Fort Collins, the #1 top-of-mind response was 'need more jobs,' followed by traffic congestion, need to control growth and the quality of local government leadership and decision-making.
When asked to rate eighteen various issues in terms of their importance, the top five items in this order were:
- creating more quality jobs in Fort Collins
- improving the quality of public education
- attracting major employers to Fort Collins
- increasing water storage for Fort Collins
- improving the major streets around Fort Collins to better move traffic
When asked about whether city government should make retaining Woodward a priority, an astonishing 85 percent said yes.
The poll was commissioned by the Chamber to gain insights on how the public was feeling about important community issues. The results were shared with all candidates for City Council. You can find the entire poll posted here, at FortCollinsWorks.com.
|Tuesday, February 26, 2013|
|Candidates Forum: Who Will Be Running Fort Collins?|
City elections have consequences for all of us, including business. Especially for business. Good intentioned as they may be, many of the people who run for public office have no experience with the private sector, which can lead to job-killing policies. So, with city elections underway in Fort Collins, it's time to tune in.
One good way to do that is by attending a Candidates' Forum this Friday March 1, 7:30 - 9:30 AM at the Marriott. It will be one of the community's first opportunities to see the 10 candidates. The final slate includes:
· Mayor - Karen Weitkunat (incumbent), Eric Sutherland
· District 1 (northeast Fort Collins) - M.L. Johnson, Bob Overbeck, Bryan Payne and Butch Stockover
· District 3 (southeast) - Lynda Blake, Gino Campana
· District 5 (west central) - Ross Cunniff, Patrick Edwards
In addition to hearing the candidates, the Chamber will share the results of its recent public opinion poll.
Plan to join us on Friday morning. The event is FREE. Space is limited, so make a reservation by calling (970) 482-3746.
|Tuesday, February 19, 2013|
|Decision Time on Woodward|
As you know through communications from the Chamber and from stories in the media, Woodward is looking for a location for their corporate headquarters. Thursday night February 21 is a very important step in the process as the City Planning & Zoning Board will consider a planned development proposal on land at the northwest corner of Mulberry and Lemay. It is called the Link-n-Greens Development Plan, PDP #130001.
Here’s how you can help:
· Show Your Support of Woodward by Attending the Planning and Zoning Meeting.
Thursday, February 21
6pm (note that the LDS Temple is first on the agenda)
City Hall, 300 LaPorte Ave
· Speak at the Planning and Zoning Meeting.
Thursday, February 21
6pm (note that the LDS Temple is first on the agenda)
City Hall, 300 LaPorte Ave
Comments don't need to be long - two to three minutes is great. Make sure to share thoughts in support of the PDP being presented. While Woodward as a member of the community, jobs, and economic development are all important, the Planning & Zoning Board is specifically focused on issues related to the site plan itself. If possible, testimony should focus in how this site plan provides for a good infill use, improves the opportunity for integration of the river corridor, connects the Lincoln Avenue area with downtown, demonstrates quality architecture, etc.
· Sending a letter to the Planning and Zoning Board.
Letters need to be received by noon on Wednesday, February 20
Send to: Jason Holland (city staff member managing the project): email@example.com
It is important for people to be "on the record" of the meeting (by testimony or submitted letter) in case the plan is appealed. You can only speak at an appeal if you were on the original record for the PDP.
The agenda for the Planning and Zoning Board can be found on the web site at: http://www.fcgov.com/cityclerk/planning-zoning.php
This is a critically important decision for the community. How this meeting goes will go a long way in determining whether Woodward stays and expands in Fort Collins.
|Monday, February 18, 2013|
|Lincoln's Publicity Lessons for Small Businesses|
In honor of Presidents' Day, here's a story on Inc.com about six publicity lessons from Abraham Lincoln. Writer Steve Cody says the six lessons are:
1. Nurture the brand of you.
2. Share the wealth.
3. Embrace new technology.
4. Use comedy to defuse a crisis.
5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
6. Timing is everything.
(As I read #3, I kept seeing an image in my head of President Lincoln leaned back in a chair near a pot-bellied stove, his long legs stretched out in front of him and he’s cracking jokes, which he’s surreptitiously getting from Jokes.com on the iPad setting on his lap. Doesn’t quite work, right?!)
|Sunday, February 17, 2013|
|Small Business Health Care Reform Toolkit|
Here's a great resource for our small business members that explains how health care reform wil impact them. It's a Health Care Reform Toolkit for Small Employers produced by Flood & Peterson.
|Tuesday, February 12, 2013|
|Business Has Big Stake in City Elections|
April 2 is Election Day in Fort Collins. Registered Fort Collins voters will be deciding on four of the seven seats on the City Council.
The election is important for many reasons but not the least being the local economy. City Hall can do some things to help foster private sector job creation but more than anything it can kill jobs through its policies, high fees and taxes and a negative attitude towards business.
The Chamber will be active in several ways:
- Chamber leaders have offered to brief all of the candidates on the local economy. Most have taken up the offer.
- The Chamber and other business groups will hold a candidates forum on March 1. While interested in a broad range of issues, we particularly want to learn the positions of the candidates relative to business and the local economy. You can find information about the candidates’ forum here.
- The Chamber will endorse candidates, communicate those endorsements to the members and explain how they can support the candidates.
To learn more about the Chamber’s government and political affairs programs go here.
|Monday, February 4, 2013|
|Fort Collins: The Great Urban Weekend Escape|
Fort Collins and the surrounding area may be home to you, but it’s a refuge for those looking for a great weekend escape.
Forbes Magazine labeled us a ‘Great Urban Weekend Escape’ recently, which you can read here. Downtown, dining, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and beer get special mention.
|Tuesday, January 29, 2013|
|How Health Care Reform Impacts Small Companies|
The federal health care reform legislation law is huge and the accompanying regulations will be even bigger. So, what does that mean to your small company?
Our friends at Flood & Peterson have produced a short but insightful briefing paper written specifically for small companies. You can find it here.
|Tuesday, January 22, 2013|
|Jobs Agenda 2013|
The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is very focused on creating a climate where businesses can locate here, expand and invest. In the process of doing so, jobs are created for area residents. Chamber leaders are in the revising our ‘jobs agenda’ but following is a preliminary list for your reading pleasure.
Retain Woodward in Fort Collins and help the company expand. As a 57-year business resident of Fort Collins, Woodward has a long track record of being an outstanding corporate neighbor and employer. The company’s decision on where to build its new corporate headquarters complex is equal parts opportunity and peril for the community. Woodward will be presenting its plans for the Link-N-Greens site (northwest corner of Mulberry and Lemay) to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board on February 21. This item is the community’s #1 economic priority for 2013, by far.
Redevelop Foot Hills Mall. Fort Collins is still the retail trade center of Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. The decline of the mall over the past decade, however, has eroded that standing. Purchase of the mall in 2012 by Alberta Development was very welcome. The redevelopment plans are exciting and visionary.
Codify reasonable business assistance policies and procedures. Attractive places like Fort Collins do not need to ‘bribe’ businesses to locate in them by lavishing companies with lucrative incentives packages. However, incentives are an indication of a community’s attitude towards business and its willingness to be a good partner. Sometimes they can be a deal maker or breaker. The city government is in the middle of a process to review its incentive policies and procedures. When done, the City should adopt a reasonable policy towards business assistance.
Eliminate the use tax on Fort Collins manufacturers. Few Colorado communities impose a use tax on companies and ever fewer impose it on manufacturers. The fact that Fort Collins does creates a significant barrier to the attraction and expansion of primary employers. Waiving or reimbursing the tax to employers is not a ‘tax giveaway’ or ‘corporate welfare’ as some contend because it is a tax that should not be imposed anyway. Eliminating it removes a large job-killing obstacle and evens the playing field vis-a-vis other communities.
Implement the City of Fort Collins’ new strategic economic plan. Adopted in 2012, the plan is a good roadmap for creating good-paying jobs in Fort Collins. The plan is detailed and multi-faceted, but several of the recommendations should receive priority attention:
- Emphasize entrepreneurship. In particular, the community, especially city government, should continue to support the work of the Rocky Mountain Innosphere.
- Focus on clusters. The City should finish its work to update the cluster study, so that limited community resources can be used to yield the best economic benefit for the community.
Identify the gaps in workforce skills. Good data needs to be gathered on the current workforce’s skills and what employers need then work with the community college, university and others to fill those skills gaps.
|Tuesday, January 15, 2013|
|Local Legislative Affairs Committee is Impressive|
How much time do you spend each week reading city government documents, attending city government meetings or discussing city government issues that are impacting the community and businesses?
Twenty hours? Ten? None?
If you’re like most people, the answer is probably ‘none’. You’re busy at work, right? And you have family obligations. You know it’s important, but…
Fortunately, the Chamber’s Local Legislative Affairs Committee (LLAC) has your back. They are a group of your peers who meet every Friday morning to discuss local government issues, set Chamber policy and lobby government officials. There are 23 people on the LLAC.
In three decades of working for chambers of commerce, I’ve never seen anything else like the LLAC. Smart, committed, knowledgeable people who put in serious seat-time to help their community.
A good example is the current issue of the city government possibly using eminent domain to acquire the Sears property at the Foothills Mall and sell to the new mall owner / developer. The LLAC hasn’t settled on a final position, but the discussions have been in keeping with their usual thorough and thoughtful approach.
The LLAC is a great example of how business people, working through their chamber of commerce, can have a significant positive impact on their community.
|Tuesday, January 8, 2013|
|Should City Force Sears to Sell?|
How do you feel about the idea of government forcing a private property owner to sell its property so it can be acquired by another private concern? In effect, that is the question before the community as the City of Fort Collins considers using the power of eminent domain to force Sears to sell its existing building and land at Foothills Mall so it can be redeveloped by the new owner.
As you know, under the ownership of General Growth Properties, the Foothills Mall declined as the community’s most significant retail property. For much of the past decade, the state of the mall has been a concern of Fort Collins residents and a worry to city government which is dependent upon sales tax revenue.
Thankfully, the Mall was purchased in 2012 by Alberta Development, which plans to redevelop the site as a major regional shopping mall. City officials have committed to help Alberta proceed as quickly as possible through the redevelopment process with the objective of the ‘new’ mall being open for business by the holiday shopping season of 2014.
The fly in the ointment is Sears, which owns its building, the land it sits on and the surrounding parking. The new mall owners have said they don’t want to include Sears in the redevelopment; Sears has said not so fast. An impasse of sorts has developed as these two private companies dicker over price and inclusion.
Enter the City Council which will consider a measure next week to use eminent domain to force the sale of the property. If you’re interested in weighing in on the issue, you can contact your Council Members here.
|Friday, December 28, 2012|
|2012 is History, 2013 will be Eventful|
Another year has come and gone. Thank you for making 2012 a great one for the Chamber. In a future post I’ll update you on our key accomplishments. The short version is that the community continued to enjoy a strong reputation as a great place to live and the economy continued to strengthen.
The coming year will be interesting and challenging in some ways. In many respects, the uncertain policy and tax environment of 2012 continues into 2013. As I write this Congress and the President are engaged in a titanic political tug-of-war. The question isn’t about whether taxes will go up but rather by how much.
Locally, the first three months of the new year city council politics will be in full swing. Nearly every issue coming before the council will be politicized. Then, due to term limits, a new group will be leading city government for better or worse.
For our part, the Chamber will continue to press ahead with an aggressive ‘jobs agenda.’ Life is good in Fort Collins and the region, for sure, but too many people are unemployed and under-employed. Regardless of what is happening in D.C. and with local politics, staying focused on creating good jobs is a priority.
Happy New Year to you! The team at the Chamber looks forward to working with you to make 2013 a great year for your company and the community.
|Tuesday, December 18, 2012|
A great joy in all of our lives is the people who fill them up. In the process of doing whatever it is we do, it’s the people we get to associate with that make it all worthwhile. Whether you’re helping a client solve a problem, raising money for research to cure a disease, fixing somebody’s balky car, teaching a course that provides a key insight, listening to someone harrumph about something while they ‘try to figure it out,’ and family and friends, of course, it’s about the relationships.
As 2012 comes to a close, relationships at the Chamber are on my mind. There is great hazard in trying to name every person or even group that made a difference to the community and the Chamber this year. Even so, I want to cite a few.
As members, you were well represented by a group of your peers on the Chamber Board of Directors. It has been my pleasure to work with chamber boards in three different communities during my career. Plus I’ve interacted with many others as a retreat facilitator. The Board of the Fort Collins Area Chamber is a special group, the best I’ve ever worked with. They are bright, thoughtful, foresighted, and committed. A cardinal rule as the executive officer working for a board is that you need to stay at least one step ahead of your volunteer leaders. It has been hard to do that with this group!
The Executive Committee has been an especially hard-working and capable group beginning with 2012 Chair Donna Chapel of Chapel & Collins. Joining her on the Executive Committee were Chair-elect John Carroll of Ed Carroll Motor Company, Immediate Past Chair Mark Driscoll of First National Bank, Treasurer Chris Otto of EKS&H, Yvonne Myers of Columbine Health Systems and David Everitt of Everitt Companies. The latter two co-chaired the Chamber’s very effective Moving Fort Collins Forward! total resource campaign. The Executive Committee was a fun group to be around and was high wattage. They were a motivating group that you never wanted to let down! Huzzahs! to Donna for her leadership.
We had great team captains and team members during our total resource campaign. The Red Carpet Committee, Leadership Fort Collins Steering Committee, Leadership Northern Colorado Steering Committee, Local Legislative Affairs Committee, Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance Board, Environmental Committee, Envision Young Professionals Steering Committee, and Finance and Budget Committees were all well led and very effective.
Finally, a note about the Chamber staff. I’m very proud to work with our team of Ann Hutchison, Anne Keith, Janel Reichard, Joe Anderson, Kim Medina and Mimi Jones. They bring an attitude of service to work everyday, and they are competent and effective. We’re small, but I’m convinced we’re the best chamber staff in the Western U.S. (I’d say ‘entire U.S. but I’m less familiar with chambers east of the Mississippi since I moved here 10 years ago!) I’d stack us up with anyone!
We’re fortunate to have all of you as part of the Chamber family!
|Tuesday, December 11, 2012|
|Where People Are Moving|
"Growth" is a pejorative term to some people; to others it is sweet music. Either way, population growth is interesting. A great story on NewGeography.com is worth taking a peek at. It analyzes domestic migration in the 51 largest metro areas in the U.S. over the past decade and the past year. The biggest net gainers 2000-2009 are Phoenix, Riverside-San Bernardino, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Las Vegas.
More recently, as the recession eases, this has changed somewhat. The top 7 in net population growth from in-migration in 2010-11 are:
#1 Dallas-Fort Worth
#2 Miami-Fort Lauderdale
#4 Tampa-St Pete
#6 Washington DC
The biggest net population losers in 2010-11 are
#51 New York-Northern NJ -99,975
#49 Los Angeles-Long Beach
#45 St. Louis
You can find the story here.
|Sunday, December 9, 2012|
|Poll: Small Companies Reluctant to Hire|
Many people hoped after the presidential election that the sense of uncertainty gripping the country would decline. That is not the case according to small businesses responding in November to the quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey. Small companies expect to hire fewer people in 2013 than at anytime since November 2008, which was the depth of the recession. You can find the story here in the Financial Times.
|Tuesday, December 4, 2012|
|Study: Something Very Good for Your Company|
I try not to use this space for self-promotional purposes like hawking Chamber events or glorifying the Chamber. Instead, I like to comment on issues or send you to resources that I think you’ll find interesting and useful.
What follows might seem like a departure from that. However, since it’s about helping your company be successful, I’ve relented. You see, it’s all about you!
The results of a national survey of 2,000 adults were released last week. It found that being active in a local chamber of commerce is an effective business strategy. Two-thirds of consumers said that companies that are members of chambers of commerce use good business practices, are reputable, care about their customers, and are involved in the community.
The study, conducted by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, found consumer perceptions of chamber members to be positive in many ways. For instance, when consumers know that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 49 percent more likely to think favorably of it and 80 percent more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.
The study indicates that chamber membership strongly benefits small business members—if consumers are aware that the small business is involved with its local chamber.
Here’s another tidbit from the study: knowing that a company is a chamber member increases consumer favorability with young adults age 18-29 by 93 percent, the biggest increase of any age demographic. Why? The study doesn’t say, but perhaps it’s because they’ve spent their entire adult lives trying to sort out what’s real from what’s not in the virtual world. To 18-29 year olds, chamber membership is a solid indicator of credibility.93%
Anyway, there’s a lot more in the study in terms of specific business types and sizes, but the basic message is that in the eyes of the general public belonging to your local chamber of commerce makes you a more legitimate business. You can find the full report here.